Assuming the role of guardian for an incapacitated parent is a weighty responsibility. Not only must you make decisions about your parent’s care and welfare, but you also shoulder the emotional burden of knowing that they are no longer able to take care of themselves. It can be a daunting and challenging task, but with some knowledge and preparation, you can be successful in this role.
Guardianships can be established by court order or created through voluntary agreements between the guardian and the ward. In either case, guardianship typically gives the guardian authority to make crucial decisions on behalf of the ward, including decisions about medical care, financial matters, etc.
This arrangement is typically put in place when the parent cannot make these decisions themselves due to cognitive impairments or other health conditions. Guardianship can either be partially or fully granted, depending on the circumstances surrounding the ward.
What’s a guardian’s duty to their ward?
Exactly what you need to do can vary according to the situation, but guardians usually:
1. Make health care decisions
- You consent on their behalf on all medical matters. This includes monitoring their medication and ensuring that their healthcare representatives follow the care plan in place.
- Consent to all necessary non-medical services they need, such as counseling.
- In the event that they haven’t made any end-of-life decisions, it’s up to the guardian to do it. (e.g., life support and DNR orders)
2. See to their physical needs and finances
- Ensure you prioritize their needs.
- Ensure that they are able to be as independent as possible within the limits of their circumstances.
- Decide on where they will live and monitor them frequently.
- Sign them up for any safe recreational activities that can improve their quality of life.
- Managing their finances property and overseeing their financial affairs (if a conservator is not appointed).
3. Make an annual accounting
To ensure incapacitated adults are not being abused, the courts require all guardians to submit a yearly report to the court. They may even require you to make a court appearance to justify your decisions.
Caring for an incapacitated parent is difficult, to say the least, not only physically but also emotionally. Understanding what is expected of you empowers you to make well-informed decisions.